28th January, 2015


I have recently started working as a Remote Area Nurse in central Australia. My new job involves a fair bit of night driving on dirt roads. I’d love some advice on what type of driving lights to get as everyone seems to have a different opinion!

I own a Toyota HiLux, which is great, but I’d feel a lot safer with some brighter lights on these remote and unpredictable roads.


– Anne

Dear Anne,

Night driving on remote dirt roads in Australia, eh? This is certainly an environment where you need everything going for you and, yes, like a lot of subject matter in the accessory area, you are right that everyone seems to have a different opinion.

I’ve done hundreds of thousands of kilometres at night on all surfaces and have been evaluating and using auxiliary lighting since 1974. Here is what I would recommend.

Let’s start with the factory headlights. Driving lights that punch a great deal of light up the road are all very well and necessary, but unless your low beam is improved over standard, when you have to dip the high beams and driving lights for oncoming traffic, you momentarily lack visibility while your eyes adjust. This is an important factor in rural and remote areas without street lighting.

Your HiLux standard headlights will benefit from an upgrade to the IPF FatBoy H4 Bulbs. The FatBoy energy consumption is only slightly higher than the stock factory bulbs but is biased toward the low beam.

Factory high beam and FatBoy high beam are both the same at 60W, but the low beam on the FatBoy is 80W compared to the factory bulb’s 55W. In addition, these clever bulbs use an exotic internal gas at a very high pressure and, as a result, the light they output is at a higher colour temperature – the equivalent to a much higher wattage bulb.

The name FatBoy comes from the fact that the quartz tube in which the filament is lit on these bulbs is quite a lot larger than normal and hence can contain a higher volume of the special gas. These Japanese made, quality replacement bulbs are also specially designed for vehicles operating in harsh conditions and incorporate filament stabilisation posts to support the filament and help it survive vibrations. They will work reliably in modern vehicles with plastic headlight bodies and standard factory wiring looms but the addition of our ARB modular headlight loom, which channels power through large section wire direct to the bulb from the battery, will maximise their performance.

Moving onto the driving lights, I have to say I’m a great believer in strong steel bodies and mounting systems, along with hardened glass lenses for this country. The IPF 800 and 900 Series ranges have proven themselves over a 30 year period to be more than capable of standing up to the rigours of our Outback roads. 800 is a rectangular light, whereas the 900 is round. Both have almost identical performance and the choice is more about space available and style preference.

If you were doing regular river crossings, I would be recommending the XS Series of either the 800 or 900 as they have a sealed bulb and breather system that allows temporary submersion. However, assuming that’s not a concern, the regular 800 or 900 Series with their 130W H3 bulbs will not disappoint you.

Finally, there’s the controversial choice of spot or driving beam. These lights are available with either. Kits come with two spots, two drivers or one of each. This is where most of the arguments start.

As a man, I think I am qualified to comment that a lot of this argument comes down to ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ and that is why a lot of spot lights with incredibly narrow long throw beams are sold every year. Sorry, guys, it’s true – blokes judge things on size, so the guy whose lights penetrate the furthest always thinks he is the winner.

With my first spot light, the recommended dipping range was an impressive 2,500 metres. Now, unless you are travelling at 200km/h, you simply do not need that length of beam. Even at that speed, objects illuminated at the end of that beam will not be under your vehicle for 45 seconds.

Such a focussed beam is also a pain when you approach reflective surfaces like signs, as the bright spot of light gets thrown back at you. What I believe is important is the spread of light, and that means a driving beam. The wider driving beam allows you to see around the bends and out into the roadside edges to pick up approaching hazards like wildlife and stray livestock. Spot beams should also be dipped sooner than driving beams as the oncoming traffic is dazzled a lot earlier.

If you want to have the best of both worlds, by all means go with one spot on the driver’s side and a driving beam on the passenger side, otherwise two driving beams is my advice.

I hope this has helped clear up the question for you, Anne.

– Greg Milton, Manager
National Products & Services